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How the future of green home building is taking shape



Leading specialist insurer Hiscox has released a new study that takes a closer look at what modern homes will look like in the next ten years.

The report, published as part of the company’s “Home of the Future” campaign examines how changing national and international regulation requires a huge leap forward in energy efficiency to support the drive for zero-carbon homes.

The implications of this are vast and perhaps not yet fully appreciated, according to the study conducted by Hiscox with the Future Foundation.

It warns that the continuing pace of urbanisation leads to acute housing shortages in France, Germany and Great Britain. This is changing how we think about the home and fostering a greater willingness to look at new solutions.

There will be an increasing acceptance of living in smaller spaces and a new generation of well-engineered, energy efficient, prefabricated homes will find a more receptive audience. As it is, a quarter of Germans and a third of Britons are interested in this type of home – particularly young people.

Homes will adapt to changing demographics. As many as one in eight adults in Britain and France expect that their parents will come to live with them in the future. At the same time, substantial numbers of people (45% in the UK) expect their children to remain in the home for longer. Flexibility will be crucial to dealing with the new demands placed upon the home. Dual- or even tri-hub homes will become increasingly common as different generations establish their own ‘home within a home’.

The rise of the ‘accidental minimalist’. A move to minimalism will allow houses to be used more flexibly. In France and Germany, half of respondents said they had reduced clutter in the last year and in Great Britain the proportion is two-thirds. At the same time digital formats of books, records, films and photographs are replacing tangible objects – spelling the death of the bookcase. Less cluttered houses, with less space devoted to storage, will facilitate even more flexible use.

Some properties will generate more power than they consume. Energy positive communities, where residential areas become small power stations that contribute to the grid – generating power and profit – will become more common. Hundreds of houses, each with their own solar panels, will effectively act like small power stations that feed electricity into the grid.

Sustainability will be achieved by a new generation of devices that harvest previously wasted energy. Kettles that recover energy from boiling water and washing machines that use their own spin-cycle vibrations to create electricity are among the emerging examples of devices that harvest waste energy. Such innovations promise to reduce energy use in the home. These products will find a ready market as the majority of consumers are interested in energy saving devices: 79% in France, 72% in Germany and 80% in Great Britain.

The best new houses will cut through the ‘electrosmog’ and instead be designed and built to enhance wellbeing. Houses will be built to shield residents from electromagnetic radiation through installing the connectivity that we demand within walls. At the same time there will be an increasing focus on natural and recycled materials within the home and a move away from traditional and potentially harmful materials such as formaldehyde in joinery glues and volatile organic compounds in paint. As a consequence, houses will be healthier places.

Formalised home-working is highly unlikely to increase. The working from home trend is stable. However, more people are using mobile technology to work at home casually. Even our most private spaces are playing host to ‘work snacking’, such as responding to emails, with three in ten workers stating that they regularly check work emails first thing in the morning or last thing at night as it becomes increasingly acceptable for light work tasks to invade our personal time.

What changes can we expect to see in the home in the next decade? While we might expect less clutter, one of the surprises that we might have, looking around the traditional home of 2025, is that it looks much the same.

While the home may appear little changed, there will be greater functionality and efficiency – we just won’t be able to see it.

Housing developments will optimise their situation; houses with roofs of solar panels will be positioned to absorb as much energy from the sun as possible. It is likely that some communities will generate more energy than they use as more settlements become solar power stations. Individual properties will be shaped differently to maximise light of all sorts.

While houses built in 2025 will look very different, there may be a slower transition in the look of interiors. However, that traditional appearance will mask much greater and more seamless control of properties which will make them more secure, efficient and comfortable.

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